Administration rejects rebels' request to shoot down Syrian warplanes

The Obama administration poured cold water on a Syrian rebel leader's request for the United States to shoot down Assad regime warplanes.

Moaz al-Khatib said he had made the request during a recent meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and that Kerry had “promised to study the subject,” Reuters reported. Khatib asked NATO to “extend the umbrella” of the Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries installed at the Turkish border earlier this year to defend Turkey's airspace against Syrian airstrikes following an artillery bombardment last year.

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"We are aware of the request and, at this time, NATO does not intend to intervene militarily in Syria," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. "I think that a Patriot missile battery, I think, would fall within the definition of military assistance. The Patriot missile batteries that are deployed in Turkey are for defensive purposes only, to augment Turkey's air defense capabilities to defend its territory and people."

The Obama administration has balked at providing lethal support for the insurrection. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell also made it clear such a decision would have to be made by NATO.

“This was a NATO decision to deploy Patriot batteries from the U.S., the Netherlands and Germany explicitly to protect Turkey,” Ventrell said. “So, you know, all the details on that are deferred to NATO, but they were explicitly designed to protect Turkey.”

Khatib made the remarks during an appearance at an Arab League summit, where the rebels have now taken over the government's seat after Assad was expelled. He stepped down as president of the Syrian National Coalition over the weekend, citing a lack of Western support.